Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

A gravitationally lensed water maser in the early Universe

Abstract

Water masers1,2,3,4 are found in dense molecular clouds closely associated with supermassive black holes at the centres of active galaxies. On the basis of the understanding of the local water-maser luminosity function5, it was expected that masers at intermediate and high redshifts would be extremely rare. However, galaxies at redshifts z > 2 might be quite different from those found locally, not least because of more frequent mergers and interaction events. Here we use gravitational lensing to search for masers at higher redshifts than would otherwise be possible, and find a water maser at redshift 2.64 in the dust- and gas-rich, gravitationally lensed type-1 quasar MG J0414+0534 (refs 6–13). The isotropic luminosity is 10,000 (, solar luminosity), which is twice that of the most powerful local water maser14 and half that of the most distant maser previously known15. Using the locally determined luminosity function5, the probability of finding a maser this luminous associated with any single active galaxy is 10-6. The fact that we see such a maser in the first galaxy we observe must mean that the volume densities and luminosities of masers are higher at redshift 2.64.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: The 6.1-GHz water spectra of the lensed quasar MG J0414+0534.
Figure 2: The 6.1-GHz EVLA radio continuum image of MG J0414+0534.

References

  1. Greenhill, L. J. Extragalactic water masers, geometric estimation of H0, and characterization of dark energy. New Astron. Rev. 48, 1079–1084 (2004)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Morganti, R., Greenhill, L. J., Peck, A. B., Jones, D. L. & Henkel, C. Disks, tori, and cocoons: Emission and absorption diagnostics of AGN environments. New Astron. Rev. 48, 1195–1209 (2004)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Henkel, C. et al. H2O megamasers: Accretion disks, jet interaction, outflows or massive star formation? Astrophys. Space Sci. 295, 107–116 (2005)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Lo, K. Y. Mega-masers and galaxies. Annu. Rev. Astron. Astrophys. 43, 625–676 (2005)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Henkel, C. et al. New H2O masers in Seyfert and FIR bright galaxies. Astron. Astrophys. 436, 75–90 (2005)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Hewitt, J. N., Turner, E. L., Lawrence, C. R., Schneider, D. P. & Brody, J. P. A gravitational lens candidate with an unusually red optical counterpart. Astron. J. 104, 968–979 (1992)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Lawrence, C. R., Elston, R., Januzzi, B. T. & Turner, E. L. MG 0414+0534: A dusty gravitational lens. Astron. J. 110, 2570–2582 (1995)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Tonry, J. L. & Kochanek, C. S. Redshifts of the gravitational lenses MG 0414+0534 and MG 0751+2716. Astron. J. 117, 2034–2038 (1999)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Trotter, C. S., Winn, J. N. & Hewitt, J. N. A multipole-taylor expansion for the potential of the gravitational lens MG J0414+0534. Astrophys. J. 535, 671–691 (2000)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Elíasdóttir, Á., Hjorth, J., Toft, S., Burud, I. & Paraficz, D. Extinction curves of lensing galaxies out to z = 1. Astrophys. J. Suppl. Ser. 166, 443–469 (2006)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Curran, S. J., Darling, J., Bolatto, A. D., Whiting, M. T., Bignell, C. & Webb, J. K. HI and OH absorption in the lensing galaxy of MG J0414+0534. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 382, L11–L15 (2007)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Barvainis, R., Alloin, D., Guilloteau, S. & Antonucci, R. Detection of CO (3–2) Emission at z = 2.64 from the gravitationally lensed quasar MG 0414+0534. Astrophys. J. 492, L13–L16 (1998)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Moore, C. B., Carilli, C. L. & Menten, K. M. Neutral hydrogen 21 cm absorption at redshift 2.6365 toward the gravitational lens MG J0414+0534. Astrophys. J. 510, L87–L90 (1999)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Koekemoer, A. M. et al. A water-vapour giga-maser in the active galaxy TXFS 2226–184. Nature 378, 697–699 (1995)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Barvainis, R. & Antonucci, R. Extremely luminous water vapor emission from a type 2 quasar at redshift z = 0.66. Astrophys. J. 628, L89–L91 (2005)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Wilner, D. J., Bourke, T. L., Ho, P. T. P., Kileen, N. E. B. & Calabretta, M. A search for water masers in the gravitationally lensed quasars H1413+117 and MG 0414+0534. Astron. J. 117, 1139–1142 (1999)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Riechers, D. A. et al. First detection of HCO+ emission at high redshift. Astrophys. J. 645, L13–L16 (2006)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Neufeld, D. A., Maloney, P. R. & Conger, S. Water maser emission from X-ray-heated circumnuclear gas in active galaxies. Astrophys. J. 436, L127–L130 (1994)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Miyoshi, M. et al. Evidence for a black hole from high rotation velocities in a sub-parsec region of NGC 4258. Nature 373, 127–129 (1995)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Tarchi, A., Henkel, C., Peck, A. B. & Menten, K. M. Water maser emission in IC 342. Astron. Astrophys. 385, 1049–1055 (2002)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Braatz, J. et al. in Astrophysical Masers and their Environments (IAU S242) (eds Chapman, J. M. & Baan, W. A.) 402–403 (Proc. Internat. Astron. Union Symp. Colloq., Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007)

    Google Scholar 

  22. Tarchi, A., Henkel, C., Chiaberge, M. & Menten, K. M. Discovery of a luminous water megamaser in the FR II radio galaxy 3C 403. Astron. Astrophys. 407, L33–L36 (2003)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Antonucci, R. Unified models for active galactic nuclei and quasars. Annu. Rev. Astron. Astrophys. 31, 473–521 (1993)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Kondratko, P. T., Greenhill, L. J. & Moran, J. M. The parsec-scale accretion disk in NGC 3393. Astrophys. J. 678, 87–95 (2008)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Herrnstein, J. R. et al. A geometric distance to the galaxy NGC 4258 from orbital motions in a nuclear gas disk. Nature 400, 539–541 (1999)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Claussen, M. J., Diamond, P. J., Braatz, J. A., Wilson, A. S. & Henkel, C. The water masers in the elliptical galaxy NGC 1052. Astrophys. J. 500, L129–L132 (1998)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Peck, A. B. et al. The flaring H2O megamaser and compact radio source in Markarian 348. Astrophys. J. 590, 149–161 (2003)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Gallimore, J. F., Baum, S. A., O’Dea, C. P., Brinks, E. & Pedlar, A. H2O and OH masers as probes of the obscuring torus in NGC 1068. Astrophys. J. 462, 740–745 (1996)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Ros, E. et al. VLBI imaging of the gravitational lens MG J0414+0534. Astron. Astrophys. 362, 845–850 (2000)

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  30. Greenhill, L. J. et al. A warped accretion disk and wide-angle outflow in the inner parsec of the Circinus galaxy. Astrophys. J. 590, 162–173 (2003)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

Our results are based on observations made using the 100-m telescope of the Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie at Effelsberg and the EVLA, which is operated by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, a facility of the National Science Foundation operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc. The authors are grateful to A. Kraus and M. Claussen, who helped make these observations. J.P.McK. was supported by the European Community’s Sixth Framework Marie Curie Research Training Network ‘ANGLES’. A.B. and O.W. were supported by the Priority and Emmy-Noether-Programmes of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, respectively.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to C. M. Violette Impellizzeri.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

This file contains Supplementary Data, Supplementary Tables 1-2, and Supplementary References. (PDF 143 kb)

PowerPoint slides

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Impellizzeri, C., McKean, J., Castangia, P. et al. A gravitationally lensed water maser in the early Universe. Nature 456, 927–929 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature07544

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/nature07544

This article is cited by

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing